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Pepperell official says water pipes should be replaced

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

By Hiroko Sato

MediaNews

PEPPERELL — Many of the water pipes running through the town date back to 1908.

The aging pipes mean the Department of Public Works Water Division has a big project on its hands said DPW Superintendent Mark Richardson. Many town roads need to be dug up in order to repair the century-old pipes, he said.

The project could cost $5 million or more, possibly taking the town 10 years to complete. But, if the work is not done, the pipes could become more susceptible to cracking, and the undersized water mains might not be able to channel enough water for fire suppression if the town continues to grow, Richardson said.

The Water Division wants to begin replacing water pipes in “a large portion” of the town in a few years. The existing vintage water pipes, which are made of cast iron and are 8-inches in diameter, have already exceeded their 100-year lifespan. Board of Public Works member Greg Rice said it is not clear just how much longer the pipes will hold out, though the board does not consider the replacements as an emergency project. The Water Division hopes to replace the pipes with the ones made of ductile iron with a cement lining that help them last longer.

Richardson has already included a $500,000 expenditure in the fiscal 2013 capital program, though it’s more for planning purposes than anything else.

“What we don’t have is the start date,” Rice said. “(Putting the item in the capital program is) for the general recognition that this has to be done,” Rice said.

The true cost of the project remains unknown as it all depends on bids for the work and bond interest rates — which can fluctuate over the next two years, Richardson said. The Division has been setting aside some of the revenue for the project. Rice said an annual payment on a bond normally costs more in the first two years than in any of the remaining years.

Richardson said no matter the estimated cost of the water project, the work will be paid for by water rates because the Water Division is a self-funded entity.

In some sections, the agency will be switching out the old water mains with larger ones that are 12-or 16-inches in diameter. Though the existing water system is sufficient for water suppression for now, as the lines become further extended and more connections are needed to feed off the lines, they may not be able to carry enough water to fight fires Richardson said.

Richardson did not know how the project would be phased in but traffic conditions and temporary water lines would be a concern, he said.HSato 5/24/10 I left a message for Selectman Joseph Sergi to get a comment, but haven’t heard back today.

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